A few months ago I started to build small treasure/jewelry boxes and needed a tool to cut narrow dados in the box sides to accommodate a plywood bottom. I enjoy working with hand tools but didn’t have a dado plane, and I almost started making one but figured a trim router would be easier to deal with. I may ultimately make a dado plane but at the time I needed to finish some boxes instead of making a new plane. I was sure that a trim router wouldn’t be used all that much so I sprang for an inexpensive trim router. After searching around, I eventually ended up purchasing the Harbor Freight Drill Master 1/4″ Trim Router. At the time it was on sale for $28 and hey, that’s comparable in price to some of the router bits themselves! I figured it this way, for the price how could I go wrong.
Anyway, here’s the breakdown on how I feel about the trimmer router…
The trim router comes in a sturdy box with all parts neatly wrapped in plastic bags. Usually I don’t bother keeping the boxes that tools come in but in this case since I don’t plan on using it all that much I opted to keep all the parts in the box for easier storage.
Here is what is included in the box. The trimmer router, two different edge guides, a set of spare brushes, wrenches and manual (not shown). There’s another clear plastic guide that was attached to the router when I first opened it but I didn’t see much use for it. To install/remove a bit it uses a two wrench combination, one to hold the motor shaft and the other one used for the bit collet. Some routers use a locking “key’ that slides over the motor shaft instead of using a wrench like another router I have but actually I prefer the double wrench idea, seems more positive and less apt to strip the slotted shaft’s keyway.
This shot shows one of the edge guides installed. It’s not an elegant design but it does work and when locked in position it doesn’t move. It’s adjustable vertically and horizontally with enough travel for most routing use. I drilled a couple of holes in the guide and screwed a block of wood with a channel cut into it so the guide can be adjusted close to a bit if necessary. I think that adding the block adds more stability while guiding the router along an edge.
Another view of the guide with the block installed.
One minor problem I found is that the base of the router rocked a bit. That’s an unacceptable frustration while routing, a router’s base has to be flat for stability. My solution was to rub the base carefully back and forth on a sheet of 220 grit sandpaper to flatten it. It didn’t take long and it made a tremendous difference while routing. One nice feature with this router is the business end of the router is very open for viewing the work.
Also in this pic you see the adjustment scheme used to adjust the height of the router and holding it’s position securely, and it does hold securely. As you can see it’s all plastic here. The plastic used has some “give” to it but even so, I found that to secure the router there wasn’t a need to tighten it down too much. If carefully tightened, there shouldn’t be an issue of broken parts. The adjustment by the rack and pinion works okay, and with a bit of fussing, the depth would be accurate enough for general woodworking.
The bottom of the router base showing the areas that were sanded enabling the router to stand flat. I suppose I could have gone through a series of grits up to, say 3000 so the base would be more clear but I don’t think it was necessary.
The second version edge guide attached. It has a circular bearing on the end for passing along an edge of a workpiece. I could be used when using a router bit without a bearing guide attached to the bit. It is adjustable vertically and horizontally (minimal fine tuning adjustment).
There have been some discussion of the router getting hot while using it, so here is what I did when I first used it. With no load and without a bit installed I ran the router for 5 minutes then shut it down and let it cool. Then I ran it another 5 minutes the same way. I did this 5 times before using the router. I believe that set the brushes to the commutator for a better contact which would eliminate the heat problem, anyway mine gets a little warm but not hot. My intuition tells me that I’m going to be using this router for a long time. Overall I find the Harbor Freight Drill Master 1/4″ Trim Router to be a welcome addition to my collection of tools.
If you happen to see that this router would work for you in your shop, I’d appreciate it if you would use my affiliate link to purchase one. It wouldn’t cost you a penny more and it would help me to keep this site going. Thanks!
Harbor Freight 1/4″ Trim Router